My heart is torn between East and West. I live somewhere between the present and the past. I don't know who I am.
It was new year’s eve.
He crouched in the corner of the big wardrobe, whimpering, as the bad people with their big guns came to take his father away. His mother too had been taken away, just last week.
"To heaven" his father said, as they unearthed her body from the rubble that was once his grandparent’s home. His mother had been staying over with her parents the night the shelling started. It was a direct hit, they said. One hundred people lost their lives that night.
He watched in silence as they began beating his father, his hero.
He shut his eyes and placed his little hands over his ears but even this could not drown out the sound of their slaps and his father’s piercing screams.
He tried to think of heaven and all the nice things his father had told him about it. It was the place of dreams, he had said. He could see his mother there and play all day long without having to do any homework. He could eat whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted and go to sleep well past his bedtime…
His father’s screams became louder as the beating became incessant and more ruthless.
He started to rock,
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
He could smell fear in his rancid sweat, feel it in the warm wetness that was spreading on his trousers and slowly trickling down his legs. He could taste it in the sick that was snaking its way up his throat and the metallic taste of blood as he bit down on his tongue to stop himself from screaming.
Suddenly, the beating stopped, just as quickly as it had started.
He opened his eyes slowly, his left eye first, then, his right. It took them a while to adjust. He peered through the cracks of the wardrobe in which he was hiding. His father, his hero was lying on the ground, still. The bad people with their big guns had left.
"Baba" he whispered as he unfurled his little arms and legs.
He cleared his throat.
"Baba" he said.
He slowly opened the creaking wardrobe doors and climbed out. Pins and needles pricked at his feet and heart as he made his way to his father.
His eyes reached his father before his body did. They took in the bloodied features of his father’s once handsome face, his torn clothes, the bruises on his arms and legs, the huge slit on his throat and the dark pool of blood that had began to gather below his father’s body.
He crouched next to him. Silent tears began streaming down his face. They blurred his vision so that everything before him became one, big, bloodied blob.
A feeling of shame overcame him.
"You’re a big boy now, a man. Men don’t cry my dear son." His father had once told him.
He quickly wiped his tears away.
"Look baba, I didn’t cry, not once, not even when I saw them kicking and slapping you, I never cried…I am not crying, honest!"
Fresh tears began streaming down his face. He tried to wipe them away but his delicate, little fingers could not keep up with the heavy stream. Anger welled up inside him. It was as if his whole body was conspiring against him to make him look like a coward in front of his father, his hero.
He hated himself at that moment. He hated himself because he was not strong enough to stop those stupid tears. He hated himself because he was not old enough to stop wetting himself but most of all, he hated himself because he was not brave enough to stop those bad people with their big guns from hurting his father.
He looked over to his father’s face again. His lips were upturned in a crooked smile and his jaw drooped to the side as if his father was making a silly face at him. He chuckled, not knowing whether from happiness or fear.
He started playing around with his father’s face, pinching his big nose and turning his lips up and down. Happy face. Sad face.
He often used to play this game with his father, in the mornings, when he used to crawl into his parent’s bed whilst they were still asleep. he would watch as his mother’s chest moved up and down in tune to his father’s soft snores. He would then position himself carefully atop his father’s large body and pinch his nose. He would burst out in laughter as his father woke up in shock, gasping for air, his face as red as a tomato.
Only this time, his father never woke up.
He pinched his father’s nose again and again, harder and harder until his little fingers began to hurt from the pressure. As he let go, a stream of blood trickled down from his father’s nose staining his fingers.
"Wake up baba" he said.
"I don’t like this game anymore."
"Baba" he whispered, as he shook his father’s motionless body.
"WAKE UP!" He screamed.
The tears had returned but be could do nothing to stop them. He picked himself up and walked slowly back to the wardrobe. He climbed back inside being careful not to step onto his parent’s hung clothes and curled up into a tight ball.
The wardrobe reeked of piss and blood. He reached out and grabbed at one of his mother’s dresses hanging above him in the wardrobe. It was a long, purple, silk dress that his mother used to wear on special occasions. He buried his face into its smooth material and tried to take in the smell of his mother’s perfume. But not even the smell of orange blossoms and roses could wipe out the stench of death that had overwhelmed his life.
There would be no more laughter, no more happiness, no more hope. Only tears, sadness and fear.
The clock in his parent’s room struck twelve. Last year, they had planned to go out together as a family on New Year’s Eve, his father, his mother and him.
He felt tired but sleep would not come to him, not tonight. He closed his eyes and tried to remember his parent’s smiling faces but the only images his mind could conjure were those of his father’s drooping jaw and his mother’s ghostly body, white with death.
"Happy New Year, mama."
“Happy New Year, baba”
It’s difficult, yes, but not impossible to forgive someone for siding openly with an oppressor but what I can never forgive is the silence of those who see innocent human beings being slaughtered in cold blood everyday, who see innocent human beings being imprisoned for absolutely no crime, who see innocent human beings being tortured and humiliated and who either don’t speak out against these actions or even worse, those who try to justify them.
Your silence is just as deadly as a bullet. Your tacit approval makes you just as complicit in these crimes as those who commit them. Your hands are stained with the blood of innocent human beings just like the hands of those who order and carry out the killing.
Your silence makes you a killer because your silence kills us too.
I want you to just take a look at this picture and reflect on it.
This is Ali Watfa. He’s 33 years old and he has been a prisoner in Assad’s merciless prison cells for the past year.
Ali is disabled, he has a medical condition, yet despite this Assad’s forces showed no sympathy and accused him of being a ‘terrorist’ working against the regime, without any evidence to back their accusations.
Over the past 2 years many of us - living far away from Syria - have somehow reduced the importance of the popular Syrian Revolution, by branding it as a ‘civil war’ where both sides are apparently equal, or a ‘proxy war’ - or even just a ‘humanitarian crisis’ - or whatever other names people have come up with.
I just wanted to remind you all, that what’s happening in Syria is a revolution and remains a revolution. Our people rose up for freedom and dignity against an oppressive regime which denied them both rights.
The first words they chanted were for freedom and dignity. And the first chant to be said was for dignity - الشعب السوري ما بينذل (‘the Syrian people will not be demeaned/humiliated’.)
They did not rise for bread. They rose for dignity. And often, without realising, we dismiss this. We get too caught up with the developments of the revolution, that we forget the essence of it all. A call for dignity.
This man here, Ali Watfa, he deserves his dignity. He deserves to live as every single human should live, with dignity and universal human rights. Him, his family and friends. His entire nation.
So I ask of you, please. To forget all the other countries and players involved in the outer core of this struggle, and just focus on the main stakeholders, their demands and their needs for once. To remember how the revolution started and why. And to respect the Syrian people’s calls for dignity, without attaching any extra strings to them.
Wa alaykum al salaam!
I just want to apologise for taking so long to answer your question. I’ve really been thinking about what you said and I’ve come to the following conclusion: I have absolutely no idea what the solution for Syria is. Honestly, I am not an expert and if I knew, indeed if anyone knew then things would not be where they are now. I don’t believe that the situation would be over because there are certain sides who are benefiting from what’s going on in Syria right now, these are the people which, as you say, are content for the conflict to carry on.
As for people believing that the situation is now a “lost cause”: how can we be surprised at such sentiments when all we see of the conflict is destruction and death? The situation is morbid, yes, but I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: How can we allow ourselves to give up on the Syrian cause when the Syrian people themselves refuse to give in?
At the end of the day, what’s happening in Syria is a revolution, a call for dignity and it’s our duty as human beings first and foremost and then as Muslims to support and stand by those who are being oppressed and those who have been wronged. What really gets me, what hurts me the most is those who have been caught up between the two sides, the innocent men, women and children who have been killed, tortured, humiliated and forced to flee their homes. Their suffering has been reduced to numbers and figures, their struggles have been forgotten. Those are the true victims and the real heroes of the revolution. Those are the people most in need of our support and aid.
You ask about what should be done. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand [by taking action]; if he cannot, then with his tongue [by speaking out]; and if he cannot, then with his heart [by hating it and feeling that it is wrong] – and that is the weakest of faith” (Narrated by Muslim, 49.) So, the simplest thing you can do is to believe that what is happening to these innocent people is wrong - you won’t believe how many people are still in support of Assad and his barbaric actions. Speak out against what is happening in Syria - you won’t believe how many people still don’t know what’s going on in Syria today. Donate your time and money to charities working with refugees and on the ground in Syria - you won’t believe how desperate some of these charities are for donations and volunteers.
I hope this answers your question. Thank you for being so patient. Hope you and your loved ones are doing well :)
Even after the revolution, Syria will not be a Western-style feminist stronghold. Based on the ground reality, I would advise you to stop expecting that Syrian women, or Arab women in fact, to follow the same path as Western feminists do. Because they won’t. Don’t mirror your own set of rules and morals and think that Syrian women will abide by these same rules.
Different societies are simply different, and not everything is a mirror of the West. If you think the revolution will create groups in Syria like FEMEN whose members protest nude, you will be disappointed. Women’s rights in a future Syria will be dealt with in the context of being a male-dominated society, and a society with very strong religious and traditional feelings.